How to Make Elephant Toothpaste

Three Parts:Preparing for the ExperimentConducting the ExperimentAdjusting the Experiment for a Lab

Making elephant toothpaste is an easy and fun science experiment that you can do with your kids at home or with students in the lab. It is the result of a chemical reaction that creates a large amount of oozing foam. The movement of the foam looks like toothpaste squirting out of a tube while the amount of foam usually is enough for an elephant to brush its teeth.

Please be aware the concentrated hydrogen peroxide (greater than the household 3%) is a strong oxidizer. It may bleach skin and could possibly cause burns. Do not attempt without proper safety precautions and the presence of an adult. Have fun with it, but be safe!


Home version

  • 1/2 cup 20-volume hydrogen peroxide liquid (20-volume is a 6% solution, which can be found at a beauty supply store or hair salon)
  • 1 Tablespoon of dry yeast
  • 3 Tablespoons of warm water
  • Liquid dish washing soap
  • Food coloring
  • Bottles of all shapes

Lab version

  • Food coloring (optional)
  • Liquid detergent
  • 30% hydrogen peroxide (H202)
  • Saturated solution of potassium iodide (KI)
  • 1L Graduated cylinder

Part 1
Preparing for the Experiment

  1. Image titled Make Elephant Toothpaste Step 1
    Look around your home for all the available resources. You don’t need to buy official lab equipment for this fun experiment as most of the supplies can be found at any home. Create a list of what you have available to you and see what you can improvise if anything is missing. For example, if you do not have 6% hydrogen peroxide, you can also use 3%.
  2. Image titled Make Elephant Toothpaste Step 2
    Schedule enough time for setup, experiment, and cleanup. Remember that this can get messy so tell everyone involved that they have to pitch in for cleanup afterwards. Allow enough time for everyone to participate and enjoy the experiment.
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    Contain the splash zone. Experimenting with oozing foam can be fun at any age but it’s easy for kids to get carried away. Whether you plan to conduct the experiment in the bathtub, out in the yard, or use a large baking pan or plastic bin, minimize cleanup by preparing a contained space.
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    Find the right amount of hydrogen peroxide. The amount of hydrogen peroxide will determine how much foam you generate. While you might have some 3% hydrogen peroxide in your medicine cabinet, you can also go to a beauty supply store to find 6% as it usually is not readily available at grocery stores or drug stores. Beauty supply stores will sell 6% hydrogen peroxide as bleaching agent.[1]

Part 2
Conducting the Experiment

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    Mix 3 tablespoons of water with yeast and let sit. You can let the kids do this step. Allow them to measure out the yeast and mix in the correct amount of warm water. Have your little one stir it to get out all the clumps.[2]
    • Depending on your child’s age, you can have them use a fun spoon and stirring tool. You can also have the put on goggles and a lab coat. Kid safety goggles can be found at your local hardware store.
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    Add dish soap, food coloring, and half a cup of hydrogen peroxide in a bottle. Make sure everyone wears gloves and safety goggles before handling the hydrogen peroxide. Do not let your kids handle the hydrogen peroxide unless you think they are old enough.[3]
    • If your child is too young, have the little one squeeze the dish soap and food coloring into the bottle. You can also add glitter to make it more fun. Make sure the glitter is plastic and not metal-based because peroxide should not be used with metal.[4]
    • Stir the mixture yourself or have your child do it if old enough. Be sure that the hydrogen peroxide is not spilled.
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    Pour the yeast mix through a funnel into your bottle. Quickly stand back and remove the funnel. You can allow your child to pour the yeast but if she is young, keep within arms distance to ensure the bottle doesn’t spill onto her. Use a short bottle with a wide base for stability. Make sure the neck is narrow to increase the effect.[5]
    • The fungi in the yeast immediately cause the hydrogen peroxide to decompose and strip off an extra oxygen molecule. The yeast acts as a catalyst as it causes the hydrogen peroxide molecule to release an oxygen molecule. The stripped off oxygen molecule takes the form of a gas and once it hits the soap it creates fluffy foam bubbles, while the rest stays as water. The gas looks for an escape route and the foam “toothpaste” gushes out of the bottle.[6]
    • Make sure the yeast and hydrogen peroxide are mixed well for optimum effect.
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    Change the size and shape of the bottle. If you choose smaller bottles with narrower escape routes, you will have a more powerful oozing foam. Play around with the size and shape of your bottle for greater effects.[7]
    • With a regular soda bottle and 3% hydrogen peroxide, you will probably get a cascading effect like a chocolate fountain.
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    Feel the heat. Observe how the foam gives off heat. The chemical reaction is known as an exothermic reaction so heat is given off. The heat is not enough to cause any harm so you can definitely feel the foam and play around. The foam is just water, soap and oxygen so it isn’t toxic.
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    Clean up. You can use a sponge to clean up the area and pour any extra liquid down the drain. If you decided to use sparkles, strain them out of the liquid and throw them out before pouring down the drain.[8]

Part 3
Adjusting the Experiment for a Lab

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    Put on gloves and goggles. The concentrated hydrogen peroxide used in this experiment will burn the skin and eyes. It can also bleach fabric, so choose your clothing with that in mind.[9]
  2. Image titled Make Elephant Toothpaste Step 12
    Pour 50 ml of 30%hydrogen peroxide into a 1L graduated cylinder.[10] This hydrogen peroxide is stronger than any household peroxide. Be sure to handle with care and make sure the graduated cylinder is set on a stable location.
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    Add 3 drops of food coloring.[11] Play with the food dye for fun effects. Create fun patterns and color variations. To make the final product striped, tilt the graduated cylinder and drip food coloring down the sides.
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    Add about 40 ml of dish soap and swirl to mix. Add a small layer of liquid dish soap by pouring it into the solution down the side of the cylinder.[12] You can also use powdered dish soap but be sure to mix the solution thoroughly.
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    Add the potassium iodide to the solution and quickly stand back! Using a spatula, add the potassium iodide to create the chemical reaction. You can also dissolve the potassium iodide in water in a vial before adding to the solution. Large colored foam will rise out of the cylinder.
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    Test for the presence of oxygen. Place a glowing wood splint near the foam and watch it reignite as the oxygen is released from the emerging foam.[13]
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    Clean up. Flush the remaining solution down the drain using plenty of water. Make sure all glowing wood splints are out and there are no open flames. Close and store the hydrogen peroxide and potassium iodide.


  • You might notice that the reaction produces heat. That's because the chemical process is exothermic, meaning that it releases energy.
  • Keep your gloves on when disposing of the elephant toothpaste. You can dump both the foam and the liquid down the drain.
  • Hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) naturally breaks down into water (H2O) and oxygen over time. But you can speed up the process by adding a catalyst. And as the hydrogen peroxide releases a lot of oxygen at once in the presence of detergent, millions of little bubbles form quickly.


  • The foam will overflow suddenly and quickly, especially in the chemistry lab version. Ensure this experiment is conducted on a washable, stain-resistant surface, and do not stand anywhere near the bottle or cylinder when it foams.
  • The resulting substance is called elephant toothpaste only because of its appearance. Don't put it in your mouth or swallow it.
  • Elephant toothpaste can stain!
  • This experiment cannot be done safely without goggles and gloves.

Things You'll Need

  • Safety goggles
  • Disposable gloves
  • A clean 16 ounce plastic soda bottle
  • Small cup
  • Tall graduated cylinder (at least 500 ml)
  • Vial
  • food coloring (optional)
  • Liquid or powdered detergent
  • 30% hydrogen peroxide (H202)
  • Saturated solution of potassium iodid

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